Sunday, February 13, 2011

General Test Taking/Preparation Advice - DSST / CLEP

Yes, it's all about the basics really. Most of these exams are called "Intro to...." or "Principles of....". That alone should tell you something about the depth to which the MAJORITY of questions will go.

I am NOT saying that these exams are easy, or that you shouldn't study as hard as you possibly can. Rather, I am saying that you have to focus your studies on what will provide the highest return on the actual exam. For most of these exams, the thing that will provide the highest return is THOROUGHLY knowing all the basics such as key terminology, concepts, principles, etc.

The REALLY hard stuff should only be considered important if you desire to earn 'bonus points' on the exam, or if a simple passing score is not pleasing enough for you.

On most exams, I went ahead and conquered the hard stuff too. But on certain exams, such as Accounting, Statistics, Principles of Finance, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, etc., I just found myself getting SO overwhelmed by some of the more advanced topics that it was hurting my self-confidence and causing me to get confused by even the basic stuff. So in the end, for these exams particularly, I focused the vast majority of my time and energy on truly MASTERING the BASICS.

When it came time to take the exam, I found that I could answer almost every single easy and average difficulty question. Any question I came across that was too hard, I simply guessed and moved on.

If you can do that, you can afford to miss most of the really hard questions, and still do well. Also, since these are multiple choice exams, you have a 20-25% chance of getting even the MOST diffficult questions right simply by guessing.

With that in mind, I would recommend that you make sure you will be able to get every single "easy" question right, almost all of the "average" questions right, and hopefully pick up one or two bonus points by guessing on the extremely hard questions.

Obviously this is a different approach than most people would consider. It would seem more logical to try and master absolutely EVERYTHING when preparing for an exam. But with some of these exams, it's just not worth the 'mental anguish, pain, and suffering' that such an attempt would cause.

Here's my 10 Step Program for passing an exam:

1. Research the exam. How many questions, what is covered on it, time limit, paper-based or computer-based, minimum passing score, graded or pass/fail, score needed to get an 'A' (if applicable) etc.

2. Read (or ask for) feedback from other people who have already passed the exam. Was it easy, was it hard, what areas to focus my studies on, which materials they found useful etc.

3. Gather together everything I will be using to study. This might include: Instantcert, study guides, pdf files, web site links etc.

4. Read a good overview of the subject. is often good for this, or I might read a study guide, or a web site etc.

5. Go through Instantcert and make my own notes. I find that WRITING the information down in my own words helps me to remember it.

6. Keep going through Instantcert until I feel comfortable with the majority of the material. This involves actually understanding the concepts/explanations rather than merely memorizing which words go in the blank spaces.

7. Fill in any gaps in my notes. There may be a topic that is not covered in Instantcert, or that is not covered deeply enough for my liking.

8. Study from my notes. Memorize wherever possible.

9. Take a mock test or two (admittedly at this this stage, I can more or less tell whether I am ready for the exam without having to take a mock).

10. Take and pass the actual exam!

Limited Learning In College

I stumbled across this article on Yahoo and thought you would be interested:

Student tracking finds limited learning in college - Yahoo! News

Student tracking finds limited learning in college

By ERIC GORSKI, AP Education Writer Eric Gorski, Ap Education Writer – Tue Jan 18, 12:43 pm ET

You are told that to make it in life, you must go to college. You work hard to get there. You or your parents drain savings or take out huge loans to pay for it all.

And you end up learning ... not much.

A study of more than 2,300 undergraduates found 45 percent of students show no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years.

Not much is asked of students, either. Half did not take a single course requiring 20 pages of writing during their prior semester, and one-third did not take a single course requiring even 40 pages of reading per week.

The findings are in a new book, "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses," by sociologists Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia. An accompanying report argues against federal mandates holding schools accountable, a prospect long feared in American higher education.

"The great thing ” if you can call it that” is that it's going to spark a dialogue and focus on the actual learning issue," said David Paris, president of the New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability, which is pressing the cause in higher education. "What kind of intellectual growth are we seeing in college?"

The study, an unusually large-scale effort to track student learning over time, comes as the federal government, reformers and others argue that the U.S. must produce more college graduates to remain competitive globally. But if students aren't learning much, that calls into question whether boosting graduation rates will provide that edge.

"It's not the case that giving out more credentials is going to make the U.S. more economically competitive," Arum said in an interview. "It requires academic rigor ... You can't just get it through osmosis at these institutions."

The findings also will likely spark a debate over what helps and hurts students learn. To sum up, it's good to lead a monk's existence: Students who study alone and have heavier reading and writing loads do well.

The book is based on information from 24 schools, meant to be a representative sample, that provided Collegiate Learning Assessment data on students who took the standardized test in their first semester in fall 2005 and at the end of their sophomore years in spring 2007. The schools took part on the condition that their institutions not be identified.

The Collegiate Learning Assessment has its share of critics who say it doesn't capture learning in specialized majors or isn't a reliable measure of college performance because so many factors are beyond their control.

The research found an average-scoring student in fall 2005 scored seven percentage points higher in spring of 2007 on the assessment. In other words, those who entered college in the 50th percentile would rise to the equivalent of the 57th after their sophomore years.

Among the findings outlined in the book and report, which tracked students through four years of college:

_Overall, the picture doesn't brighten much over four years. After four years, 36 percent of students did not demonstrate significant improvement, compared to 45 percent after two.

_Students who studied alone, read and wrote more, attended more selective schools and majored in traditional arts and sciences majors posted greater learning gains.

_Social engagement generally does not help student performance. Students who spent more time studying with peers showed diminishing growth and students who spent more time in the Greek system had decreased rates of learning, while activities such as working off campus, participating in campus clubs and volunteering did not impact learning.

_Students from families with different levels of parental education enter college with different learning levels but learn at about the same rates while attending college. The racial gap between black and white students going in, however, widens: Black students improve their assessment scores at lower levels than whites.

Arum and Roksa spread the blame, pointing to students who don't study much and seek easy courses and a culture at colleges and universities that values research over good teaching.

Subsequent research found students one year out of college are not faring well: One-third moved back home, and 10 percent were unemployed. The findings are troubling news for an engaged citizenry, Arum said. Almost half of those surveyed said they rarely if ever discuss politics or public affairs with others either in person or online.

The report warns that federally mandated fixes similar to "No Child Left Behind" in K-12 education would be "counterproductive," in part because researchers are still learning how to measure learning. But it does make clear that accountability should be emphasized more at the institutional level, starting with college presidents.

Some colleges and universities do not need convincing. The University of Charleston, in West Virginia, has beefed up writing assignments in disciplines such as nursing and biology to improve learning.

President Edwin Welch is among more than 70 college and university presidents pledging to take steps to improve student learning, use evidence to improve instruction and publicize results.

"I think we do need more transparency," Welch said. "I think a student at a private institution who might go into debt for $40,000 or $50,000 has the right to know what he can learn at the institution."


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Principles of Finance DSST

I just passed it with flying colors.. I used the new official 2011 test prep guide that had alot of the questions on the exam or close to it... You can order it from for about 30 bucks.... I used that along with the notes everyone recommended... Thanks guys...My test was heavy on bonds, payback, npv and only a few pv, fv calculations. There were at least three questions regarding EOQ, or economic ordering quantity.

Be sure to study dol, dcl, dfl, and irr. Know bonds, call feature, npv with outflows, break even, total asset turnover formula, which forms you use to calculate roa, definition of beta, capm formula, discount rate formula, effective rate formula, study section on eoq, There are questions about actual and required rate of return.
Things covered different types of ratios (memorize all the types of ratios!) you should know which ones are profitability, asset utilization, etc.
  • I had a couple questions on EOQ, you should memorize the formula and know how to use it.
  • You must know all how to calculate future cash flows using all three methods (payback method, NPV, IRR)
  • There were questions and problems on financial leverage, operating leverage, and combined leverage.
  • I had a couple questions on credit terms (i.e 2/10 net 30).
  • I had a question on calculating foreign currencies. While I studied and knew how to work these problems, the question was weird and I probably got it wrong.
  • Know that common stock is the most expensive investment!
  • Know what beta is and how to calculate CAPM
  • You need to know the steps to go through for determining net income on an income statement, as they will just give you parts of an financial statement and require you to calculate from it.
  • PVIF, PVIFA, FVIF, FVIFA. What's been said earlier in this thread is also very helpful -- make a list of formulas and study them -- EOQ, SML, YTM, and so on -- all the ratios
    . How to use the 4 financial tables you received from Prometric to calculate PV, PVA, FV, FVA, IRR (by guessing based on initial and subsequent cashflows given) and NPV (by subtracting initial investment from the PV calcuated using the table).
    . Cash Discount. Know your terms (eg 2/10 net 30) and the cost of that cash discount. eg. If the net days increased from 30 to 60, how would your cost of cash discount be affected?
    . Components (accounts) of a balance sheet to calculate ratios off of (not in ic).
    . Know your four type of ratios and most popular ones. For example, If I gave you a balance sheet and told you to calculate Debt to Asset ratio, you need to know what values to pick out from the provided balance sheet.
    . Components of a Cash flow statement (high level, not the detail).
    . Know Net Working Capital and the basic balance sheet components that make it up.
    . Formula for DOL, DFL and DCL (degree of leverage for operating, financial, combined) and know what leverage (debt or fixed costs) is and how it relates to assets and equity.
    . Know how to compute EOQ from different variables given. (not in ic)
    . CAPM and Constant Growth.
    . Simple Currency conversion. (not in ic)
    . Break Even Point theory and calc. eg. If var costs decreased, how would that affect BE? incr, decr, no-change, not enough info?
    . WACC
    . Bonds
    . Tax margin. Convert something to its "after tax" value.
    . Systematic and unsystematic risk. (not in ic)
    . Factoring.
    . "Cost of Capital" section in IC.
 You will also have to solve for a recurring annuity payment.
There is a LOT of overlap. PV, FV, all them ratios, payback period, IRR, net present value—I had to relearn it all a year later.
Present and Future Value – You should know what semiannual means.
EOQ – there's at least a couple of problems that require knowledge of this formula and concept
CAPM – I don't recall using the formula to solve a problem, but there were several questions regarding the concept
Tax Margin – two questions regarding that.  Those were two of my guesses
Systematic and Unsystematic Risk – definitely know that.  Despite the advice in the Specific Feedback section, I never got around to looking that up—as it seemed obvious.  It's not—at least not the way these questions are phrased.  You should know this.
Leverage – DOL, DFL, DCL.  The Q(P-VC) formulas won't help you much but the concepts will.  In other words, you aren't going to have to do a raw computation, but you'll have to take it from half-way in and be able to finish and answer several questions relating to how leverage works and how other changes may or may not impact leverage.
Stock valuation formulas – at least be able to recognize them
Foreign Currency Conversion – it's one of the few problems where they give you unfriendly numbers to work with
Cash Discounts
Credit Terms
Net Working Capital
Weighted Cost of Capital
Factoring - know what it is.  Easy points.
Bond debentures, indentures, floating-rate, etc.
Valuation of Stock - I knew CAPM and Constant Growth--which you should know as well, but I didn't know the other P=D/K variations--and I should have.
Payback Period, IRR, NPV –
Statements – there are several questions that require you to know which items are on which statements (Income, Balance) and which to use (and not use) when calculating things like net income, etc.
 Make sure you also know the following well:
Cost of Bonds and Preferred Stock as well as YTM on Bonds. Detailed parts and how to calculate.
EOQ and Inventory (FIFO/LIFO) there were at least 4 questions on EOQ.
Invoicing - Cost of Trade Credit concepts
Effective Interest Rate (what it is and how to calculate)
Source/Uses of Cash and after-tax concepts
Know and practice how to solve time value questions, NPV, IRR, and cashflow problems with the calculator and bond/stock valuation, cost of debt, capital, and other terms.
basic understanding of proforma statements

- Computing "net worth" from a list of figures (not as intuitive as one might think)
- Understand the effects of stock splits/reverse stock splits/stock dividends/cash dividends on retained earnings, par value, stock price, EPS.
- If EOQ goes up by a certain amount, how much does that affect inventory level?
- If cost of capital is X% and internal rate of return is X%, what does that say about the NPV? In other words, it's not enough to just know how to compute IRR or NPV on your calculator, you need to understand the formula and the effects of variable changes.
pay particular attention to the circumstances and effects of the cost of debt. There are at least 8 questions that revolve, at least in part, around this series of concepts.
I had probably 10-12 questions that were to solve for PV or FV or annuities. One combination-type question asks for the future value of an account with different deposit amount for about 5 years, then no deposits for 15 years earning interest, and what is the future value at the end.
I had around 5 questions that were on the CAPM formula (this is where you'll find Beta) where it gave you everything but 1 part of the equation and you had to solve for the required rate of return. You want to have that formula memorized. A few questions about EOQ, economic ordering quantity. I also had a question that asked what happened to inventory if the EOQ went up. I think inventory would increase, but I don't know if I got that right or not. There are several questions on the 3 types of leverage (financial, operating, and total or complete), so it would be good to memorize these 3 formulas and know that DFL x DOL = DCL. I had to solve for the present value of a perpetuity (annual return divided by interest).I think I had to value a bond. To do so, use the cash flow for each period multiplied by the PVA (or find the PV's for each period and add them all together, as I had to do), then add the PV of the amount due at maturity and this is the Bond valuation.
Understand internal rate of return, and Net Present Value, which is not the same thing as Present Value as NPV takes into consideration the initial cash investment. On the test, they use the terms asset utilization and debt utilization, so I would look online to get those in your brain. Know that leverage refers to debt. Liquidity looks at current obligations and Leverage looks at long term obligations. 4 ratio types to be liquidity, activity, leverage, and profitability
I did have a question where it asked for the collection period to be calculated.
I was also given a currency conversion (from what it would look like in a newspaper I think) and needed to look at it and answer 2 questions about it.
The top line said something line $USD to German DM and then had some numbers after it.
Also, I was given a “stock's market price of 7-7.5” and you had to tell which was the ask and the bid?
Know what EBIT is, and Net income, (that net income is after taxes, but before any dividends are paid out).
Know the 3 sections of a cash flow stmt, (operating, investing, financing) and know that non-cash "expenses" like depreciation, are ADDED back into your net income on a cash flow, so it an increase to cash, and there at least one question about this. A cash flow statement begins with Net Income.

There were a good number of questions on cost of capital and on capital budgeting.
You will have to calculate break-even, which is Quantity (or break even quantity) = FIXED COST divided by (PRICE less VARIABLE COST). You will want this memorized to answer a few questions on it.
Know what earnings per share is, and what price per earnings ratio is. Other things I know I had questions on was Return on assets, return on equity.
Regarding bonds, know what a call option is, a put option, know that a debenture is an unsecured bond, and that the indenture is the bond contract.
Know that issuing common stock is most expensive way for a firm to raise capital. Know what flotation costs (legal, etc.) are.
Know what systematic risk and unsystematic risk is. Diversified risk is unsystematic risk. You can almost eliminate unsystematic risk by diversification, but you can't eliminate systematic risk.
Total risk is made up of diversifiable risk and non-diversifiable risk. Know about bonds being sold at a premium or a discount to their par value, how to calculate their yield. Know what a call is. Call price less par value = call premium.
Know that current or short term means less than one year.
Know that preferred stock gets paid a dividend, normally.
Know that a bond sold at a discount increases it's yield, and that a bond sold at a premium reduces it's yield. Know that the par value is the value at maturity. Know how to find the yield of a preferred stock. It is the annual dividend divided by the required rate of return. I am certain I had this on the test.
Know how to find the yield on common stock. Year 1 dividend divided by (investors required rate of return less the growth rate of dividends).
Know what a revolving line of credit and a commitment fee is, know that interest is paid in advance on a discount loan, which increases the interest rate as the usable funds are lower since interest was taken right off the top. Know what commercial paper is. Know what a lien is. Know what factoring is. I had questions on these.
Capital expenditures.
Know the difference between independent projects and mutually exclusive projects.
Know about those capital budgeting techniques from InstantCert and that if IRR is greater than the cost of capital, they should accept the project. Know that NPV and IRR can conflict with each other.
Know that "payback period" does not factor in time value of money.
I had one question about the “times interest earned formula”?
 Make sure you know all the risk concepts inside and out, since they tie into almost everything else.
There wasn't much on CAPM, maybe 3 or 4 questions, but they did require knowing the formula and how to use it.
• Calculation of IRR from given values
• Calculation of CAPM from given values
• Cost of retained earnings
• Calculation of current ratio
• Calculation of quick ratio
• Calculation of NPV
• Constant Growth Value is also known as what?
• Questions on WCCA
• Questions on Interest Rates
• If a person can spend 5000 annually on a car within 4 years and the interest rate is 6%, what is the price of a vehicle that the person can afford (calculate present value and sum it)
• A question on opportunity cost
• Diversification
• If the rate of inflation is 6 % in USA and 2 % in Australia how will this affect USA $ vs. Aus $
• When is ordinary annuity paid (some choices are in the middle of the month, end of month etc)
• How often do banks pay interest on savings (some choices are monthly, annually, sami-annually etc.)

Comparing average tax rate to the marginal tax rate?

Banks pay interest? (answers: daily, weekly, quarterly, semi-annually)

Pure discount bonds sell at ? Below value, above value, etc. I never came across the term "pure discount".

How many years to double your money at XX% interest? This is actually easy to figure out using TVM on calculator. Just plug in any value - say $100 for PV, then FV of $200, Interest=XX. Then compute N (time period).

I had the question listed in the forum feedback about the car payment ($5000 for 4 years how much could the family afford to buy)

A question about how to calculate beta from some values presented?
I did have 2 or 3 questions using CAPM formula

Pure discount bonds sell at ? Below value, above value, etc. I never came across the term "pure discount".
Cost of retained earnings -- not just what it is, but how to calculate it from given values, the values given assume you know how other financial factors affect retained earnings
·         Effect of inflation on risk under the CAPM
·         Effects of differing levels of risk aversion on securities risk rating; calculate beta from given values
·         Yield to maturity on bond given values -- I could not remember how to work the function on my calculator
·         Several PV, NPV and one IRR calculation question
·         The 'family finances car' PV question
·         Calculating retained earnings from an income statement
·         Remember the accounting equation
·         Current ratio, practically the same question 3 times
·         Know the implications of/effects on SML (which is CAPM)
·         Which activities increase cash?
·         No inventory calculations, but know that inventory is least liquid current asset
·         If a business has a lot of assets in slow-moving inventory, which measure is the best indicator of their situation?
·         One where cost of equity /cost of capital is supposed to be a guide to return on assets. There's a relationship here I'm clueless about.
·         Which measure is best to determine return on assets (ROA is not one of the choices)?
·         Pick which of the following is characteristic of common stock
·         Know the definition of net present value, as well as how to figure it.
·         Beta on portfolio given betas of stocks in it
·         How would a firm minimize exchange rate risk?
·         What is a spot rate trade? None of the given answers made sense. I chose the one that looked like a typo of a sensible answer
·         No questions on Dupont directly, but one that looked like it may have assumed knowledge of it.
·         Calculate EPS (a 'what to leave out' question)
·         As mentioned in previous feedback several stock questions are used to test your knowledge of related topics; this makes stocks seem over-represented on the test.
·         Quick Ratio, Current Assets - Inventory / Current Liabilities.
Pure Discount Bond
-Beta concepts and how to calculate it
-A lot of characteristic questions over stocks and bonds(really know these)
-Value of Bonds
-Capital Budgeting; Payback period
-Effective Annual Rate
These included DOL, EPS, PV of bond, PV perpetuity, PI ratio, Gordon model, CAPM, current ratio, quick ratio.
The DSST Fact Sheet is pretty straightforward. Make sure you tackle each topic.
- There were a surprising number of questions on Floatation Costs on my exam.
- Several questions that involved PV/FV/CF calculations
- Capital Budgeting/IRR
- Cost of Capital/Cost of Debt/Cost of Equity
- Balance Sheet/Income Statement/Cash Flow Statement
- Ratio Analysis - what does it mean, how is it applied
- Annuities and Annuities Due - know the difference and application
- Short term and long term sources of funds and implications of each
- Bonds - evaluation, calculating value, return
- Sensitivity - what it measures, how it is applied
- Risk and Return - figuring expected return and how things affect risk
- Effective/Nominal interest rates
- Standard Deviation
- Diversification - questions specific to diversifying/risk
- Exchange rates/Intl financial markets/Spot vs Forward
 I needed was present value, future value, current ratio, quick ratio, nwc, price over sales (don't even know what that is), how to value a bond, theoretical knowledge of what capm is and what it is used for (not the formula), currency conversion question, interest rate conversion (nominal to effective).
NPV, IRR, MIRR, Payback, and PI.
 Current, Quick, EPS ratios seemed to pop up often.
I had 3 calculations on the Current Ratio (which is good cause it's an easy formula) and 1 using the Quick Ratio.

Comparing average tax rate to the marginal tax rate?

Banks pay interest on savings accounts? (answers: daily, weekly, quarterly, semi-annually)

Pure discount bonds sell at ? Below value, above value, etc. I never came across the term "pure discount".

How many years to double your money at XX% interest? This is actually easy to figure out using TVM on calculator. Just plug in any value - say $100 for PV, then FV of $200, Interest=XX. Then compute N (time period).

I had the question listed in the forum feedback about the car payment ($5000 for 4 years how much could the family afford to buy)

A question about how to calculate beta from some values presented? Again, I knew about beta but never came across how to calculate it. I guessed.

Know the implications of/effects on SML (which is CAPM)
·    Which activities increase cash?
·    No inventory calculations, but know that inventory is least liquid current asset
·    If a business has a lot of assets in slow-moving inventory, which measure is the best indicator of their situation?
·    One where cost of equity /cost of capital is supposed to be a guide to return on assets. There's a relationship here I'm clueless about.
·    Which measure is best to determine return on assets (ROA is not one of the choices)?
·    Pick which of the following is characteristic of common stock
·    Know the definition of net present value, as well as how to figure it.

A History of the Vietnam War DSST

The Vietnam exam today was very challenging. I am pretty certain that I passed, but I have no clue whether it will be a high score or a barely passing score. A lot of DANTES exams are like that. But this one especially so.

I can't believe that the Vietnam exam is only lower level credit. In my opinion, it was every bit as difficult and challenging as both the Soviet Union, and the Civil War exams. The questions they asked, and the knowledge they required, were just as deep and complex for this exam as they were on the two upper level exams.

Luckily, I had studied equally as hard for History of the Vietnam War as I had done for Civil War and Soviet Union. So I really do think I was able to pull it off. But there are definitely EASIER lower level history exams to be taken.

I don't recommend this exam to anyone who just needs 'filler credit' to boost their electives. Leave it for the history majors who NEED this credit, and/or certified history buffs who would gladly CHOOSE to take this exam.

I enjoyed studying for this exam, and I actually enjoyed how challenging the exam was (I'm always up for a good challenge)....I just wasn't expecting it to be comparable in scope and depth to the two upper level history exams I had already taken.

I don't think I failed it. I really did study hard for it, and I think I knew the answer to most of the questions, even though they were not quite as straightforward as I anticipated.

Cederic was right on the money when he said, "I would compare the difficulty level to the Soviet Union exam."

You absolutely cannot take this exam for granted. Approach it as if it is one of the more difficult upper level DANTES exams. Studying for it is especially problematic since Instancert does not cover this subject. You are basically on your own.

Here's my breakdown of the exam, for all who are undeterred by my words of caution!

To study I used ALL of the following sources:

SparkNotes: The Vietnam War (1945-1975)

Vietnam War - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(lots of links to follow if you want to get nice and deep into the subject)

Vietnam War Index

American Experience | Vietnam Online | PBS

The Vietnam War > University Without Walls Spring 2004

The Vietnam War > University Without Walls Spring 2004

Viet Nam War Overview

Vietnam War: 14 to 18 years Websites

Make sure you adequately study the early history of Vietnam, the French aspect, and Laos/Cambodia. Even after studying all the above sources, I was still thrown for a loop by a few of the questions in these areas and had to make educated guesses. These were the areas that I felt least prepared for. Together, they make up approximately 19% of the exam (about 20 questions). It's not a huge loss if you miss a couple of them, but be prepared for some challenging questions in these sections (1/5th of the exam). Certainly don't skip over these areas as you prepare for the exam.

The rest of the exam follows the DANTES factsheet to the letter. There were few surprises in the actual content of the questions. Rather, it was the depth of knowledge tested that caught me off guard.

There will be plenty of "simple" questions to boost your score too...if you have studied hard and prepared well, you might be able to answer ALL of these 'low hanging fruit' correctly.


Bao Dai
Ho Chi Minh
Le Duan
Le Duc Tho
Pham Van Dong
Vo Nguyen Giap
Duong Van Minh
Ngo Dinh Diem
Ngo Dinh Nhu
Madame Nhu
Nguyen Khanh
Martin Luther King, Jr.
King Sianouk
Lon Nol
Pol Pot
Sen Morse and Sen Gruening
Gerald Ford
Jimmy Carter
The Kingdom of Champa


First Indochina War
Versailles Peace Conference
Dien Bien Phu
Geneva Accords
Ap Bac
Gulf of Tonkin
1964 US Election
Pleiku and Flaming Dart
Rolling Thunder
Ho Chi Minh Trail
Ia Drang
Operation Cedar Falls and Central Office of South Vietnam (COSVN)
Phoenix Program
Khe Sanh
Tet Offensive
My Lai Massacre
Kent State
Strategic Hamlet
Spring Offensive
Quang tri
An Loc
Paris Peace Talks
The Killing Fields
Democratic National Convention in Chicago (1968)


Vietnamese Nationalist Party (VNQDD)
Viet Minh
Khmer Rouge
National Liberation Front
Pathet Lao
Students for a Democratic Society
Vietnam Veterans Against the War


Foreign Assistance Act
Self-immolation by Buddhist Monks
Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
Great Society
War on Poverty
Guns & Butter
Domino Theory
War of Attrition
Peace with Honor
Pentagon Papers
Fulbright Senate Hearings
Detente (USSR and China)
War Powers Act

I hope this helps! I know it's a lot but, like I said, this exam is no walk in the park. You WILL need to be familiar with each and every item listed above.

Western Europe Since 1945 DSST

Took this today and got a 71 -- good enough for an A at Excelsior. Every post in this thread was helpful, but I have to especially thank Studyhard, Two Socks, Perrik, and Tvelasquez (who I think took the exact same test I did). I was worried about this test due to the lack of either a decent practice test or a specific, targeted book published more recently than 20 years ago. But in the end, I was only a deer in headlights on 2 or 3 questions.

There was very little on the Cold War and not much on the history of the evolution of the European Union -- more about how it works currently. Also surprisingly little on specific people. There's DeGaulle, of course, and I think Willy Brandt, and the king of Spain. No mention of Adenauer, Monnet, Churchill, Attlee, de Gasperi, MacMillan, or any of the other scores of people I made it a point to learn about.

While it's still fairly fresh in my mind, here's what I remember:
  • Ostpolitik
  • What kept Spain out of the mainstream of the west and how they got in.
  • Why DeGaulle returned to power in 1958 and how he disagreed with the USA about the USSR.
  • DeGaulle's ambitions for France.
  • Schuman Plan
  • British, German, and Italian parliamentary systems -- how they work and how they're chosen. Be able to compare and contrast them against each other.
  • Understand how German federalism works (it's unique in Europe and not quite the same as the American brand, either).
  • How the French president and British prime minister are selected.
  • How the British cabinet (regular and "shadow") are assembled.
  • How the EU and its main bodies work (European Commission, Council of Ministers, European Parliament, Court of Justice, Europol) and where they meet.
  • Know a little about the European Council and the Council of Europe.
  • The EU's aid program -- how it works, who it helps, and what its purpose is.
  • EU's Common Foreign & Security Policy
  • Effects of decolonization
  • Labor relations, especially in Germany
  • Immigration, especially in Germany
  • Power sharing arrangements implemented to ease ethnic tensions
  • The most contentious aspect of EU policy
  • Which EU member state's citizens object the most to EU policies and why.
  • What East Germany was especially infamous for.
As others have noted, there were many questions where more than one answer seems to fit at first. But if you go back and reread the question more carefully, usually one answer choice will seem to stand out more than the others. Shades of meaning are important.

The main materials I used to study were:

Western Civilization II: 1648 to the Present CLEP

I passed this one today with a 69. I thought I was going to do much better (closer to the 77 I made in Western Civ I), but I found that the REA book I used let me down in a few areas.

I used REA Western Civilization II by Dr. Preston Jones. This covers about 4/5 of what you'll need. I also studied this Web site, which added a bit to what the REA book had to say: WESTERN CIVILIZATION I I. (The all caps was super annoying, though!)

A few things I found worth remarking on:

There was a much bigger focus on eastern Europe than I was expecting. You really need to know what was going on with Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and the Baltic States.

Know about enlightened despotism -- which rulers were enlightened despots and what they all had in common

Understand nationalism, nation-building, and the people and forces that influenced these trends and brought them about.

Understand socialism and the milieu in which it arose. Also the different types of socialism, including social Darwinism.

French Revolution & Napoleonic Europe -- various phases of the revolution and rise of Napoleon

Russian Revolution -- communist Russia, what Lenin and Stalin did and how they diverged from Marx's ideals

Enlightenment philosophers and scientists -- major accomplishments and schools of thought. Be able to identify quotations from philosophical writings. (You don't have to have read the works, but you will need a solid familiarity with how the writers thought.) (There were a couple of philosophers on the test that weren't covered by REA.)

Industrial Revolution -- how innovations spread across Europe beginning with England and how they changed society economically and otherwise

Birth of the modern German and Italian nations

Both world wars -- causes, events leading up, who fought with whom, who was neutral, how WWI led to the climate that gave rise to WWII

Treaties, pacts and alliances -- try to be familiar with pretty much all of them! I had at least one question about a pact I'd never heard of in any of my studies

Social trends -- marriage, rates of having children, illegitimacy, etc. This wasn't covered well in the REA book!

When and how suffrage was gradually extended to more and more people

Romanticism -- basic tenets, how it differed from rationalism and how it influenced nationalism

Absolutism, and in particular, how it worked with Louis XIV

Understand what happened with England's Glorious Revolution -- especially its aftermath

Know what NATO, the League of Nations, and the UN were/are, why they were started, and what really important country didn't join the League (hint, hint).

Know who colonized whom and what the objectives of colonization were.

Understand what mercantilism was and what it meant.

Know what schools of art, music, and architecture emerged and what they were basically. This aspect of the test is much simpler than with Western Civ II, partly because so much of that culture is still with us and familiar, and partly because there are a lot less of those questions this time around.

There were a few maps and photos, but they were among the easiest questions. (The maps in Western Civ I were much harder.) I was surprised how few questions there were on anything after WWII. If you run short of time, you could probably just learn the 1648-1950 period REALLY well and forget 1951-2008. Especially if you're old like me and lived through a sizeable chunk of those years! I didn't need a textbook to tell me what glasnost was, and I watched the Berlin Wall being torn down on TV.

The structure of the Western Civ II test is much like Western Civ I in that you have to memorize a bunch of facts, but then rather than just regurgitating them, you have to be able to use them reason out the answers to complex questions.

Whew. I hope this helps!

Ethics in America DSST

I took the test and thought that I failed it and then got a 462. Since their scoring is based off a 200-500 system with 400 passing I must of did well. I did get the essay question on the end and did that even though I didn't need it. There were two scenarios. One was a worker 2 yrs to pension notices company covering up dumping toxic waste in river. Second was a man in accident horrible crippled/ disfigured by fire. Insurance is running out treatments too painful to take. Going to burn through savings and college funds. It asks 4 parts; first - list all the important facts in the case 2nd - list your arguments and why using supporting theories 3rd - consider the opposite and list arguments for that 4th- reconsider using alternate arguments and do you still support original theory and why?

Questions that I had no idea about where
- the medical ethics involved with using humans - mainly represented by report of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment ( forget the name).
- Islam what is used as the deterrent and capital punishment. They had 5 pillars.... 4 (something something).

Pretty much same as csaya7

-Know your rule and act utilitarianism
-deontologist theory.
- land ethics what is the focus? 
-Hobbes, Kant, Hume rosseu, Epictetus, Plato Aristotle, Epicurus 
-passive and active euthanasia, 
-Thras. And Thuc. Might makes right. 
-Who wrote about the right to social protest - narrowed down to king from Birmingham and Hume(?) leviathan. 
-Hindu and favorable rebirth
- book of exodus laws based on...
- question on a conselor and his "fiduciary" right to client
- Aquinas
- Aristotle on slavery

I solely used the flashcards. This was tough because I had ZERO previous knowledge on the topic so literally spent 20+ hrs going through the sections. I stopped using the scenarios after the first run through to streamline. Tried the YouTube 3min philosophy but unless you knew the terms didn't help, DSST review in official study guide was worthless, test questions looked Ok.

Apply yourself and this is doable. Take your time, read everything slowly. Mark the questionable ones and come back when finished. I had 94 questions - last being essay. I took 1.5 hrs.

Civil War & Reconstruction DANTES

This was my first DANTES test. I got a 73, which is an A at Excelsior! 

I wasn’t planning to take this exam, but after taking both US History CLEPs, I thought what I had learned for those would be helpful in continuing on to study for the Civil War exam. Also, having several ancestors involved has made this time period interesting to me. I learned a lot and studied for 4 weeks. 

I used:

Idiots Guide
SparkNotes Civil War
SparkNotes Reconstruction – This had several topics that were not covered elsewhere.
Ken Burns DVDs and website - The Civil War . The War | PBS
IC – I should have spent more time on these.
American Civil War - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Quizzes to Test Yourself - This is similar to the AP Quizzes, but there are many more questions. It will help with the basics, but is not as deep as the exam.
ClassZone - Creating America: Beginnings through Reconstruction
Civil War Battles Quizzes and Civil War Battles Trivia -- FunTrivia There are a lot of Civil War trivia pages here. This one is for battles. These are fun, but it is too easy to get off track, like what is the name of Grant’s horse? (One was named Cincinnati.)
Official DSST Fact Sheet (DSST - has 12 sample questions. A couple of the questions were on my exam. There were more battles on my test than what was listed on the fact sheet; they were covered as important battles in the study materials.

Review materials from US History CLEPs:
REA has excellent coverage of material in about 30 pages. 
Barrons EZ 101 – AP Quizzes are good for this but there is no coverage of the battles. 
Resource: A Biography of America videos 

I wish I had spent more time looking for some practice exams at textbook websites.

This exam was not as fact based as I hoped. It helped me to learn the dates so that I had a better idea of the order of events and how they related to each other, but knowing dates was not on my test. I also thought I might need to know the number of casualties and troops at each battle, but that wasn’t on the test either. It just had the total numbers for the whole war.

I did need to know the second level of generals that made a difference in the battles, not just the main generals. I had trouble with a couple of questions about describing the general’s attitudes/actions.

Be sure to understand the politics leading to the war, during the war, and during Reconstruction. The Reconstruction SparkNotes was very good, but I still didn’t have enough depth on the consequences of the different reconstruction plans. (What I knew did not match the answers.) Maybe Wikipedia has more.